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9 August 2007
STEPPING OFF the street into Nina's Hair Parlour is like being whisked back in time to the celluloid world of a fifties Hollywood movie, writes Alex Christie Miller...
The salon is not just the UK's first retro hairdressers, but also a social hub for a growing group of enthusiasts, for whom recreating the glamour of the classic film stars has become an obsession.
As tracks from the1930s crackle quietly in the background, stacks of vintage hats, old mirrors, cluttered memorabilia, and garish movie posters and adverts showing the girdled models of yesteryear testify to the personal passion of the head dresser, Nina Butkovich-Budden.
Since opening on The Cut eighteen months ago, Nina is now trimming, bleaching, and setting the hair of the capital's retro-philes, and customers can regularly be seen leaving the salon sporting the sculpted curls of the silver-screen stars - Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall.
"It's been increasing incredibly," she says. "When I started some people thought that it was such a small scene, no-one would come. We just had a few customers at first, but within a year I was completely booked up."
At venues such as the Bethnal Green Working Men's Club and Kennington's Pacific Tiki bar, patrons of her hair parlour gather to boogie, jive or lindy hop to the music of the twenties to the fifties, and Nina often notes that she has put scissors to the hair of a good proportion of the capital's retro partygoers.
"It's a nice respite from all the clubs and the drinking people usually do, and boys and girls have had enough of generic looks," she says.
Originally from Croatia, Nina has been a hairdresser for fifteen years, but she had to teach herself how to recreate the old styles.
"No one teaches it. You have to learn on your own. I started off doing normal hair dressing and it got boring. I was interested in glamorous hair styles. I love the old movies and through watching them I trained myself."
She started off doing hair for friends and performers at rockabilly and burlesque clubs. "More and more people wanted the styles and I thought there was a niche in the market."
By popular demand, she even runs classes on Sundays and Mondays - now booked up until October - to teach her setting and make up techniques to the keener customers.
One of those is Charlotte Cooper, an editorial assistant who began coming to Nina's six months ago, and wears her hair in a Marcel wave - a style popular through the 1910s and 20s in which the hair is shaped with a curling iron into a series of deep waves.
"You start off watching the films and listening to the music, then you wear the clothes and go to the nights and you just get sucked into it. I've always had a mass of hair, so it makes sense to do something interesting with it - everyone's got the same haircuts today."
She now sets and maintains her hair at home. "You have to have a lot of discipline to sit in front of the mirror but it's too much fun not to do it," she says.
But the hair parlour offers more than a retro makeover. "It's a relaxed atmosphere, and there's a big social element too," says Charlotte. Nina even engages in the odd bit of matchmaking, having set her up at the salon with her boyfriend and fellow retro-phile.
And increasingly it isn't only women who frequent the parlour. "I've started getting many more inquiries from men these days," says Nina.
NINA'S HAIR PARLOUR
@ CUT & CLIPPER
35 The Cut
Waterloo, SE1 8LF
To make a booking contact Nina or Julie on 020 928 7061
Please call after 12 noon.
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